Any serious contact with the Lake District fells will soon bring you to Alfred Wainwright. It may be because of Alfred Wainwright that you have serious contact with the fells in the first place. This is because between 1965 and 1968 he published the monumental “Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells”. This he organised in seven volumes each book covering a defined geographical area and containing precise details of 214 fells and how best to climb them. To put it simply they are the best walking guide books ever written – even better than “100 Walks in Lancashire” by that Clare fella!

For the generation of walkers around when the books were first published they had an electrifying effect. No longer did they have to pore over the map to work out the best approach to a summit. With simple pen and ink illustrations supplemented by clear directions Wainwright’s guide showed them the way and has done ever since. Because so little has changed within the Lake District National Park successive generations of walkers have bought, used and enjoyed the guides many intent on climbing all 214 fells listed – “doing the Wainwrights”. Incidentally the record which was broken earlier this year by 36 year old Paul Tierney is 6 days and 6 hours who covered 318 miles with 118,000ft of ascent which is the equivalent of climbing Mountain Everest four times from sea level.

Wetherlam, part of the Coniston Range, appears in Book 4 covering the Southern Fells. It is a fell familiar with many visitors to the Lakes as it can be seen from the shores of Windermere close to the Low Wood Hotel. Usually walked as part of a round taking in Coniston Old Man the walk described below shows off the best aspects of the mountain much abused by mining and quarrying but still maintaining magnificence.

Start/Finish: Tilberthwaite Gill car park LA21 8DG


Fact file:
Distance 5 ½ miles
Time: 3 ½ - 5 ½ hours
Grade: Strenuous
Map OS OL6 The English South western area


 Map by kind permission of Johnston Press

At the car park sign take a footpath leading steeply up the side of a huge slag heap.


This levels off and soon you will notice you are following Yewdale Beck as it penetrates steep sided Tilberthwaite Gill down to the right. As you gain height intriguing passageways will be seen to the left of the path


- entrances into old workings. Continuing on the main path keep on it


until it reaches the head of the gill and then turning right cross it over stepping stones


follow a path that brings you to a bridge.


Over this go right for a short distance to incept a path coming up from the valley. At the junction turn sharp left and continue on a path that edges along the sides of a cove as first seeming to move away from the summit of Wetherlam looming above you and the cove to the left.


Passing by Blake Rigg the path takes you to Hawk Rigg once a heavily mined area before commencing a steep ascent up the flank of Birk Fell.


After Birkfell Hause you will be in a position to judge Wainwright's statement in his "Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells" - "This is the easiest way up Wetherlam."


Our experience when we checked out the route was that there was a number of times when we had to scramble - that is use hands as well as feet to make progress. Nothing out of the scope of an experienced day walker in the Lakes but nonetheless a little more challenging than just walking up a hill.


The summit is a magnificent viewpoint especially to the east and south east. To return to the car park it's this latter direction you need to go on a path that points towards Coniston Water and Windermere beyond.


(A left turn from your approach to the summit). It is an easy descent as it crosses Red Gill Head Moss and traverses a broad ridge


bringing you ever closer to Copper Mines Valley. Just under a mile from the summit look for a well-defined path down to your left


coming up from Tilberthwaite. To reach it you need to cut a corner so to speak dropping down a grassy slope which does not have a well-defined path until you meet it.


Turn left. Another mile along a gentle path


brings you back to the head of Tilberthwaite Gill. Turn right for the car park.